Keep the Big Fish

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

We all know that getting our priorities straight is important. Doing so can be difficult when there are so many different things calling out for our attention.

As always, Jesus helps us. He tells a parable that invites us to be like a "wise fisherman":

"He cast his net into the sea. He drew it up from the sea full of little fish from below. And he found one large fish. The fisherman was wise. He cast the little fish into the sea. He chose the large fish without trouble. Whoever has ears to hear, listen!" (Gospel of Thomas, 8:1-2)

Once we have that one good thing—that big fish—we can be wise and let all the little fish go back into the sea. We can let go of what we don't need—"without trouble." When we have our number one priority set, everything else falls into place rather easily.

What is that big fish, that main priority? Jesus gave us a pretty big clue when he answered the question about which is the greatest commandment. He replied:

"You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39 NLT)

What does making it our priority to love God, others, and ourselves look like?

  • Do we make time for God? Do we find some quiet time to pray, read, study, learn so that we're able to meet and master any challenge that may come our way? Or do we get busy with our days and let everything else push aside this valuable God-time?
  • Do we make sure we have time with our family, our loved ones? Or do we let homework, extra-curricular activities, or even work take up too much time?
  • Do we stop what we're doing when a loved-one needs our attention or help? Or do we say we're too busy, that we don't want him or her around?
  • Are we able to control our emotions and maintain our joy? Or do we let little things get the better of us and take away our self-control, happiness, and peace?
  • Do we look for ways to help others? Or do we think that what we're doing is more important or requires so much of our time that we can't be bothered to help others?

Living this life of love that honors God requires us to let go of things that get in the way. What are those things? How do we decide what to let go of? We may want to ask ourselves: How does this activity make me love God? How does this activity make me love my neighbor—my family member, my friend, a classmate or colleague—better?

Remember: by putting God first, we can never lose any good. But there are plenty of ways we can eliminate those things that would try to sidetrack us—things that relate to attitude and emotions. Maybe we can:

  • Let go of being right, being first, being better than others. (It's more important to be loving than to be right or first.)
  • Stop stressing out about things that aren't really important.
  • Let go of opinions, especially since opinions can cause friction.
  • Eliminate that extra activity that's making us have no free time or that's cutting into family time. (This means we have to pick what we think is best.)
  • Reduce significantly screen time—facebook, video games, TV. (We could be spending time learning about God, helping others, or actually being with people.)
  • Let go of frustration that arises when we can't figure out something quickly.
  • Stop resenting others when we seem to be doing all the work.
  • Stop condemning ourselves for making mistakes.
  • Refuse to take the bait and get into arguments over little things that really don't matter.

Since God is at the top of our list, we can trust God to work out every detail of our lives. We can be happy that we are able to serve others and to do our work. Keeping our priorities straight sets us free to be our God-given selves. So let's keep the big fish!